Black women. The power that we have, the intelligence that we have, the clearance that we have, the access that we have, the influence that we have, the profile that we have, the international implications that we have. Seriously, Black women have held down a new cycle rife with trauma and toxicity.
Auntie Gayle King did not come to play in a CBS This Morning interview with singer R. Kelly that has been released in parts this week before the full premiere on tonight. While sharing his perspective on the latest sexual abuse charges, Kelly is seen crying, yelling, standing up from the chair he was sitting in, and swinging his arms at various points throughout the released clips. Essentially, he’s giving us Brett Kavanaugh part deux!
“Y’all quit playing. Quit playing. I didn’t do this stuff. This is not me. I’m fighting for my fucking life. Y’all killing me with this shit. I gave y’all thirty years of my career. Thirty years of my career,” he cried out in the first clip released on Wednesday. “Y’all trying to kill me. You killing me, man. This is not about music. I’m trying to have a relationship with my kids and I can’t do it. Y’all just don’t want to believe me. You don’t want to believe it.”
As the clips are released, we see more and more of King’s unflappable composure and fierce interrogation of the 52-year-old singer’s culpability. She pressed him on his previous relationships, pursuit of underage girls, and just how much of the public discussion surrounding his legal troubles he believed to be false. Her effectiveness in reeling the interview back in is a case study of professionalism — and showcased more than Kelly’s answers ever could.
In observing Kelly’s reaction to her questions, it’s clear he doesn’t handle being challenged well. In the two clips released so far, he has talked over her at many points, stood over her, and tried to make his plea directly to the camera — to bypass the importance of her role as the interviewer. And this isn’t the first time that Kelly has become hostile and derailed an interview with a woman. In 2015, he prematurely walked offset while HuffPost Live interviewer Caroline Modarressy-Tehrani asked him questions about the sexual abuse allegations.
Yesterday, CBS This Morning released a second clip with two women who are allegedly being kept hostage by Kelly: Azriel Clary, 21, and Joycelyn Savage, 23. Both shared their love for Kelly, and also the belief that their parents are discussing their relationships publicly for money. King consistently called out the conflicting reports and held the tension as Clary, in particular, tried to go toe-to-toe with her.
“We both have individual relationships with him and we all are family altogether,” Clary said when questioned about the three-way relationship with Kelly. “We have our moments where we sit and watch movies altogether. We go to amusement parks altogether.”
After King pushed for clarity on the physical aspects of their relationship with the singer, Clary became defensive and eventually gave an identical outburst to the one Kelly displayed in the initial interview. The most shocking revelation during the discussion was the two women alleging that their parents were simply trying to blackmail the singer. (Later, King shared details that the singer made audible cues, like coughing, to signal his presence to the two women during the taping.)
“When I first met Robert, my parents told me to lie about my age. When I first met him, he thought I was 18,” Clary said. “On top of that, when I was 17, my parents were actually making me, trying to get me to take photos with him, take sexual videos with him.”
The CBS interviews come on the heels of Surviving R. Kelly, a damning Lifetime documentary detailing the experiences of survivors who have allegedly endured the singer’s predatory behavior firsthand. Last month, during and after the airing of the four-part series, social media was ablaze with a widespread discussion of sexual violence. Many continued to diminish the Black women who came forth and shared their stories to the world, but they deserve all of their flowers along with director dream hampton and the numerous sisters who have called Kelly out throughout the last two decades.
Not long after the series aired, Kelly was charged with 10 counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse in his hometown of Chicago. Those instances involved four women in all, but three were minors at the time. Last week, an unnamed woman posted his $100,000 bond. Tuesday, he was taken back into custody over unpaid child support.
This has been a heavy week for music fans and survivors across the gender spectrum. Sunday brought the premiere of Leaving Neverland, a two-part HBO special, revolving around the experiences of two men who allege that late music titan Michael Jackson sexually abused them as kids for years, mostly on his Neverland Ranch. King’s close friend, Oprah Winfrey, graciously hosted After Neverland, the live-audience discussion that premiered after the finale of the documentary. In a moment of deep self-awareness, she told the audience that she knew she was going to “get it” for aligning herself with the survivors.
The general public (and the media) has caught up to Me Too founder Tarana Burke’s prescient call for elevating and empowering survivors to hold society and their abusers accountable, but we still see women and survivors being attacked daily. While the public grapples with what accountability looks like for famed alleged predators, labor spent by Black women can't be ignored. And while it's being acknowledged, there needs to be a commitment from others to join in the heavy lifting.
The full CBS This Morning interview will air tonight at 8 pm EST.